Anjali Deshmukh
Statement and Info

I make systems-based artwork. They are paintings, digital drawings, installations, and fiction that are artifacts or fallout from unified narratives. The narratives are structured processes that generate the reasoning of the works shed with their passing. In some ways, the systems — sometimes visualized and sometimes not
 — are the the actual ‘artwork,’ while the artifacts are simply by-products.

I use terms like “lens,” “map,” or “game” to explain a working process that defines the nature of each system, how processes relate to their artifacts; a “lens” may be a diagram providing instructions for a painting process or a tool for comprehension, while the painting embodies practice. A “map” may be a geographic space (metaphorical/imagined/real) within which a painting navigates a cultural, political, or natural phenomenon. A “game” may be a mechanism for outcomes, a roulette wheel of theoretical images that can’t escape from the laws of randomness.

There is an important armor of rationality that protects or restrains the process. Research, emotion, and aesthetic decision-making come up against that armor to retrocraft a feedback system. I design the system and then live by its rules, while constantly taking advantage of — and resisting the desire to find — inherent flaws in the system that I am responsible for building. But through the process of making, outcomes lead to further systems and construct micro-environments with the potential for endless expansion. I describe this as Post-Rational Formalism, one kind of post-conceptual painting that tries to carve out a space for dialogue between beauty and dematerialization, between “decorative” craft and “conceptual” art.


The systems that I make are an attempt to untangle the Sublime, a term referring to a genre of 19th-century American landscape painting. It is often used to describe a quality of awe-inspiring greatness that transcends beauty to reach limits of fear and horror.

The Sublime is a ‘Western’ concept, layered on top of a premise that divides man from nature. In ‘Indian’ philosophy, however, the relationship is much more porous, with fluid and changing boundaries between the universe, life-giving land, human subsistence, and human consciousness. Applying a contemporary interpretation of the Sublime to an ‘Eastern’ conception of nature leads to a contradiction. When I use the term Sublime, I can’t avoid my own complicity in its forms. I can’t talk about the pristine, frightening profile of an environment without seeing my own impact and the cultural and economic forces that have made — or not made — it what it is. The Sublimeness of the simultaneous shrinking and expansion of the globalized landscape; of an ever expanding knowledge of the Universe that realizes and outpaces science fiction; of new environments like cyberspace and video games; and of the ubiquitous 21st-century information landscape that makes my system-building process possible.

In a way, the Sublime is supra-moral; it shows us the cosmic game — Lila — of these large cultural, physical, and technological shadows across a place. It reminds me of the raw immensity of the overlapping moralities that shape our environment. The elements of nature become twisted to show how we join the grandness and horror of landscapes that exist beyond the edge of our own imaginations.